I think what frustrates me most about situations like what is happening in Ferguson is that there is rampant bias and agenda on both sides. I understand the instinct to react in the extreme when you see bias, but it's not helpful in the long run. My initial reaction was to be upset with the rioting and protests. They seem very counterproductive. They hurt innocent people like small business owners and emergency personnel who have nothing to do with the case. This is not justified. What does it accomplish? I suppose it brings attention to the issue---but at what cost?
The justice system shouldn't be swayed by public opinion. If the evidence indicates that the officer was attacked and reacted the way any officer would have then he shouldn't be punished simply to satiate a mob. We shouldn't assume something is racially charged simply because one party is white and one party is black. We also shouldn't just assume his innocence or make the issue of race smaller than it is simply because a few inflate it.
That being said, I think that there is a reason people are upset and frustrated and it would be callous to ignore their voices.
- The officer is not "innocent"
This isn't a question of whether or not the officer took a life. The officer did kill a person. Whether or not he was acting in self-defense, whether or not it was racially charged, whether or not he should or shouldn't face criminal charges, etc. do not change the fact that a person was killed. Those things can be argued in court, but the death of another human being is never something to take lightly or brush aside as unavoidable. Of course it should be investigated. Someone is dead.
- This was an indictment, not a trial
There's no defense present at an indictment. An indictment is simply a prosecutor presenting evidence and witnesses so that it can be decided whether or not there's enough to warrant a trial. It doesn't mean the person is guilty, just that there's enough of a question to take it to court. The only reason a case would not receive an indictment is if there is something about the case that makes it VERY CLEAR that no crime could POSSIBLY have been committed. As complicated as this case may be, I seriously doubt it's straight-forward enough to warrant no trial. Keep in mind that for every 10,000 indictments, less than 1 does not proceed to court. It's just a normal step in the process. This implies at least some level of corruption.
- Racial profiling isn't made up
While there are certainly people oversimplifying the situation, that doesn't mean that there aren't problems with the system. I read an article that shared data from Missouri's state government about Ferguson and was surprised by the statistics. "Black residents of Ferguson are twice as likely to be stopped and/or searched as white residents, and they are far more likely to be arrested. But searches of black residents are much less likely to discover contraband than searches of white residents."
All of this to say---it's not simple. Making assumptions about how other people think and feel or what motivates them is dangerous. Ignoring the voices of community members who genuinely feel that their lives matter less than their peers is not okay either. We have come a very long way since 1860, and even 1960, and that should be celebrated. But if anything, Ferguson shows us that we haven't "arrived"---the United States is not a perfect, egalitarian society. We're made up of imperfect people and systems that can break or become corrupted. We have to continue to work towards equality---and we'll likely never be able to stop. So yes, #prayforferguson and never stop working towards a world that values every human life: officers, criminals, victims, oppressed people groups, the unborn, the disabled, the alien, the whore, the zealot---every life matters.